Tokyo’s Kabuki-za To Be Razed

Japanese entertainment giant Shochiku Company announced it will tear down Tokyo’s iconic Kabuki-za theatre sometime in 2010 despite protests from architects and heritage groups to preserve the historic venue.

Shochiku says it plans to build a new office/theatre complex in the present location, which is in the heart of Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district.

Performances of classic kabuki plays will continue at the Kabuki-za until April 2010, with the last 15 months of the theatre’s existence dedicated to “sayonara shows.”

During construction of the new complex, kabuki performances will be transferred to the Enbujo theatre in nearby Shinbashi.
The original Kabuki-za, a completely wooden structure, was built on the same site in 1889.

It has since been considered the center of the kabuki universe. The current structure was built in 1924 and rebuilt in 1950.

Historians consider the building precious, as the original 1924 design is from an era when a new local style was being developed for Japanese structures. The Architectural Institute of Japan submitted a petition in 2005 asking that the theatre be preserved.

The Japanese government designated Kabuki-za as a Registered Tangible Cultural Property, but such a designation does not prevent the owner of the property to “dismantle or remodel” it.

Shochiku says that the current structure is superannuated, and while details of the new building have yet to be fully determined, the company insists it will “maintain the atmosphere” of the Kabuki-za in the new complex.